Where to go? Who to follow? Where to fellowship? Where to grow? How to grow? These were important questions that I was asking myself, sometimes directly as they are and sometimes packaged in nuggets of thoughts and ideas. Meanwhile… (Previously: STEPping Into Salvation II)
The word of God is important. More than anything else. The Bible as a book is a very important book. It’s the foundation of all knowledge. Men can say anything they want, books will be published, pilled up, sold and read, but nothing supercedes the Bible. All the knowledge is a combination of nuggets, ideas, knowledge, experience and the like from the Bible itself. Add the knowledge and experience of men as guided by this and you get the other books which might seem too far fetched to be sourced from the Bible. Even those fiction and witchcraft related books. Satan made his first appearance in the Garden of Eden. If he exists his kind of work exists.
My history with the Bible and my reading culture was highly influenced by my Catholic Faith. As much as I used to sing “Read Your Bible, Pray Every Day…” I never used to practice this. I used to see the Bible on rare occasions. Only hearing it on Sundays and seeing it in CRE classes in school. The Catholic faith uses Liturgical Calendars that determine what the worldwide Catholic Church would be reading at a particular day and at a particular time. Twice or thrice I bought this liturgical calendar. A booklet with daily readings for the entire year. Here is the funny thing… Few are the times that I used this to read my Bible. At the time I didn’t even know that I am supposed to “Study” the Bible as The “Word of God.” Not just read the Bible. You get the difference? It was just a holy book and not God’s word. Read vs Study? Reading the Bible had therefore become a very technical thing for me. And boring as well. So motivation to read it was below healthy levels.
When I enlisted. I checked myself in with The Youth Bible, bought with savings from my first job. I thought I would need it there. They say two things can happen at Basic Military Training… One can either give their life to Christ or one can backslide and hate the things and ways of God. I maintained. I couldn’t forget where the Lord had pulled me from. Interesting to note would be, That Bible was not read enough times. Rarely did I say… “Let me read the Bible…” I thought it was just something to pick on Sunday on my way to mass. In short, it was just something I owned but not something I used. You grow into these things… Same way I was taught (by extension of finding my parents as dedicated church attendees and worshipers of God) how to go to Church and then in my days I learnt to love serving God and then I started serving God.
I wouldn’t be telling a lie if I say, I was using that Bible as a tool for security. To give me a sense of security. It never left my bag. I went everywhere possible with it. It would later go missing (I cannot remember where it is) after travelling around the country and in and out of various military camps through some five or six years. What got me to read the word of God with more seriousness was Sunday School.
When I started teaching children. I realised I couldn’t have a casual approach to the word of God. I needed to put more seriousness into it. Especially after you realise you cannot teach The Creation Story and The Birth of Jesus for ever. Once in a while I used the Liturgical calendar. I had this idea that if I could teach the kids what their parents were learning at Mass, it would create a better environment for discussions at home around what The Church intended for its people. This couldn’t work every time because some messages were too complex for some of the children in those classes. I would later realise that this deep study for the Bible was doing something to me. I was being drawn closer to God in a way I wasn’t feeling before. The life in God’s word was working on me even without me realising it!!!
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
Things changed when I joined the STEP class. As part of our assignments we had to read the Bible every day. 4-5 chapters every day. That’s how my Bible reading culture started changing for better. I struggled at first but I started finding ways to work on it. Funny that I would struggle reading the Bible when I could read upto 40 books a year. At the time I was taking my ground school classes at Wilson Airport and I had to find time to slot 5 Chapters of the New Testament into my schedule. It was mostly mechanical at first. I mean, not study… Just reading. Well the purpose at this level was to inculcate the daily bible reading culture. Building the discipline. So early mornings, on my bus ride to school I could read the Bible and any other time I had in between classes. Reading the Bible became intentional over time. It ceased being an impulsive activity.
I now understand that growing spiritually needs physical effort. Its like working out and hands on experience like flying. The more you’re doing it, the better and stronger you’re getting at it. So in my physical reading of the Bible, the Word of God started living in me. It became a seed that started growing. It started pulling me towards God’s on a deeper level. By the end of the book of Revelations, I was not the same person. It all read like a very interesting book. Stories you know… But by the end of my season of rushing through the Bible, my curiosity and thirst for the Word of God had grown to immense capacities. It ceased being entertainment, it stopped being a novel and a collection of interesting stories to The Word Of God. The Word of Life.
I have learnt that there needed to be a trigger to get me to that state of reading the Bible intentionally so that I could hear God. At this point I hadn’t given my life to Christ yet. But something was happening inside of me that I couldn’t explain. Masses started becoming shallower every passing day. I realised that 15-20 minutes of the homily wasn’t enough. I wanted more. Already I had answers to two questions.
1. Who to follow? – Anyone leading me to read the Bible and to hear from God Himself. (Note at this point I didn’t know that God spoke to people. So I wouldn’t even know one way God speaks to people is through His Word… In the Bible…)
2. How to grow? – Yes! You guessed it right. Reading the Bible and praying every day. (Again at this point I hadn’t learnt that prayer and the Word of God go together. That I should pray in line to Scripture)
So far the people I have been sharing with have been asking me…
How do I read the Bible? Which is the best way to read the Bible? I cannot promise the best answer. I will share what is working for me as we proceed. At this point. I was reading it because I needed to get messages for the Sunday school kids. Then as I grew, I had to read it because it was an assignment. But halfway through this assignment, the Bible was different. I grew to loving it and living the practice every day. Now things are different. I read it because it’s a basic need! It’s life! it’s a voice! The Voice of God! Depending on the season I am in, I read it differently. Topically, Book to Book, and Selective reading to Verse. As I grow, I will share how I have been doing this, not because its the best way but because its the way God is directing me. Someone else may have a completely different direction to the same thing.
The challenges that remained: Where to go? Where to fellowship? Where to grow?